Minor Key Living

Golden Piano Keys

I love music in minor keys.

Some of my favorite pieces of music – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky – are written in minor keys. All of these pieces have a brooding, melancholy air to them created by a slight shift in the way the chords are constructed within the music. This shift creates a sound that is at once haunting and comforting, as though something is deeply troubling and yet perfectly sound in the same moment.

The structure of the chord is the key to creating this effect. Essentially, the chord is created by breaking the normal chord structure slightly. For instance, a C major chord would be composed, as most chords are, of three notes, C, E, and G. To create the minor chord, we change the middle note, the E, by dropping the pitch half a step. This simple shift in tone creates tension in the music, a haunting, eerie sensibility. Minor key music is a beautiful, artistic expression born of the tautness of sound that it creates.

While many find themselves frustrated by the current climate in the UMC, and for that matter in the greater church, it is that tension that creates space for a greater number to find their way into the Kingdom of God. While those who have “drawn lines in the sand” continue to stand fast at their posts, others have chosen to accept that we do not, nor have we ever, agreed. There has never been a time, a moment in our shared history within or without the UMC that the church ever truly and completely agreed on doctrine, traditions, focal point, or anything else. Tension has been a part of who we are from the days of the early church, through the Reformation, and into the 21st century. It has always been a part of the church as it is part of any human institution. We have always lived with it, even when we splintered into smaller versions of ourselves.

Living with tension is part of living, part of being in proximity with humanity. While we may like the idea of agreeing with one another, it is in disagreement that we grow. Much like shifting the middle note of a chord back and forth between major and minor helps a piece of music to evolve, as the church body responds to discomfort, it too grows. Thus, it needs to feel discomfort, needs to disagree in order to evolve into its next iteration. Instead of forcing agreement where there will never be true agreement, why not accept the disagreement and work within our own individual contexts to bring about Kingdom growth.

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